When babies bearded dragons shed constantly. From birth to adult they grow a massive 4000 times their size at hatching. As their skin does not grow with them, they have to keep growing a new skin and shedding the old one.
A bearded dragon can have a full body shed (i.e. Lose all it's skin almost at once), a partial shed and then the rest seems to hang around, or a shed that starts at one end and finishes at the other - by which time it's usually started at the first end again!
Skin about to shed shows white. Many new owners are worried their beardie might have a skin infection, but this is perfectly normal, although understandably worrying the first time you see it. The pictures show Fiona who has a patch of skin shedding on her head, and Shrek who is just about ready to shed his skin on his back. Adults shed a lot less than babies as they have stopped growing, so they don't need to keep growing a new skin.
Sometimes beardies - especially babies or juveniles - go off their food a couple of days before a shed, and become very quiet. If you have a young bearded dragon who is reluctant to eat and appears sulky wait a couple of days before you start worrying - in most cases he'll start to shed and will be right as rain again. It doesn't happen at every shed - even in the same bearded dragon!
Occasionally a bearded dragon will seem to be having difficulty shedding their skin, and will be rubbing themselves against rocks or branches. Make sure you have rough surfaces in the vivarium that they can rub against. If they look particularly miserable then this is one of the few circumstances when you can give them a warm bath to help remove the skin. Bathing is not recommended in general for bearded dragons as their lungs are not developed to cope with humidity.
NEVER PULL SHEDDING SKIN - you could hurt your beardie by pulling skin not yet ready to shed.
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Bearded Dragon Behaviour
Why does My Bearded Dragon...?
Bearded dragons are great characters and love interacting with their owners. Some of their behaviour is entertaining, but other behaviour is concerning for new owners.
There are many behaviours which are associated with beardies, head bobbing and arm waving, black beards, shedding and the mysterious eye bulging. This page attempts to explain what is behind these odd behaviours.
Arm waving is a characteristic often exhibited by very young babies - as adults it is mainly females who arm wave. Arm waving is a sign of submission, and also probably a signal that the originator is a bearded dragon.
Head bobbing is mainly a male characteristic - males will head bob to show their dominance, and as a sign of sexual readiness. This head bobbing is a fairly violent sharp up and down head bob - males often head bob in a new area to establish that they are the dominate male around. This could be in the middle of your carpet!
A slower, shallower head bob is another submissive gesture used by females to show that they are submissive to the male.
This video shows a female arm waving and, towards the end, the male head bobbing. This is a failed mating attempt - the female seems ready, but the male not particularly interested!
Bearded dragons open their mouths to cool down
Many new owners get very worried when they see their bearded dragon sitting with their mouths open, and worry that they might be in distress.
This is nothing to worry about - bearded dragons are lazy like all lizards (and many of us). When they get too hot, but are too comfortable to move, they will open their mouths to cool themselves down. Very much like a dog pants.
The saying 'lazy lizards' certainly applies to beardies!
Sit with mouth open
When male bearded dragons get to be around 6 to 8 months old many can go through a phase where they are grumpy, can threaten to bite their owners, head thump the glass of the vivarium and generally appear to have a change of character.
Although many owners are worried about this it's just a phase they go through as they are coming into sexual maturity. It can last up to a couple of months but they do go back to their sweet natured selves.
Bearded dragon's beards go black when they are threatened or stressed. A baby beardie will also show stress lines on their stomachs - a bit like leopard markings. With babies it is impossible to say what is stressing them out at any one time as they change colouration very quickly and apparently for no reason.
Adult males can have black beards when they feel threatened - or even when they want to appear dominant. If your bearded dragon is constantly getting a black beard it could be something that has changed in a room - a coat hung somewhere it wasn't before, for example, or something is causing him to be able to see his reflection in the glass. I've also heard of a beardie, when sitting on a window sill, liked to show passing cars he was the dominant one!
The only occasion that a black beard is a worry is if the beardie is also acting quiet and not eating. In this case it can be a sign that he is ill, and you should think about taking him to a vet.
Bearded dragon with black beard
But surely he can't really be comfortable like that!
Bearded dragons can fall asleep in some weird positions
Sleep in odd positions
Bearded dragons, especially babies, can sleep in very odd positions. Standing vertically against the glass is a common one. This is nothing at all to worry about!
Babies seem to dance on their hind legs against the glass. They will do this for ages, and it is very common behaviour. It could be they can see their reflection, or it could be that they cannot understand glass - which probably seems to be solid air to them!
Bearded Dragon shedding on head
This is the sight that a lot of people new to bearded dragons get concerned about. No, he's not got a skin infection, Shrek is about to shed on his face.
Bearded dragon skin goes white or opaque just prior to shedding.
I've changed his viv around but he sees to be sulking....?
We think it's great to move our pet into a new vivarium - or even to change around his usual vivarium and put new rocks and branches in it. But what looks good to us is not necessary what the bearded dragon wants.
This isn't to say you shouldn't change the viv, or update the old one, but don't be surprised if it takes your bearded dragon a while to get used to his new surroundings! It is quite normal for them to go off their food and sulk for a few days!
My bearded dragon doesn't like my girlfriend/boyfriend/mum etc
Another common query is that beardies can behave differently with different people. Sometimes male bearded dragons get protective around human females! Sometimes it could be down to someone who wears a perfume they don't like - or even a colour. Black coats, for example, can cause a beardie's beard to go black!
We did have a member on the forum whose beardie seemed to object to his girlfriend - one suggestion was to change the girlfriend but he didn't say whether he'd acted on that advice!
Dominance and Bullying
If you keep more than one bearded dragon in the same vivarium you need to be on the look out for dominance and bullying. Bearded dragons are solitary creatures in the wild, only coming together to mate, and once that's done, they part company again. Even a female does not hang around to see her eggs hatch - and if she did, she'd regard the hatchlings as a nice tasty dinner.
So keeping more than one together is a bit of a risk. You are almost certainly going to experience dominance and bullying with two males, and even possibly with two females or one of each sex.
It's easier to see the results of bullying than the act itself - bearded dragons bully with just a look. If you notice one of your bearded dragons losing weight and looking sorry for itself, whilst the other one is thriving, that's the time to think about separating them. If you leave bearded dragons together once one is becoming dominant you are likely to come home one day to see that aftermath of a nasty fight. As shown above, it is not natural for them to live in such close proximity with each other.
Bearded dragons love to scare their owners, and there's nothing more scary when you haven't seen it before than eye bulging. Very occasionally beardies eyes seem to pop out like a frog's. It is freaky, but absolutely nothing to worry about. There's no real scientific explanation, but it's thought that it helps stretch the skin round the eyes to make it easier to shed.
Obviously we haven't exhausted everything your bearded dragon can do to worry you, so if you still have questions join my Forum and ask on there!